American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 127–143

Interdisciplinary Linkage of Community Psychology and Cross-Cultural Psychology: History, Values, and an Illustrative Research and Action Project on Intimate Partner Violence


    • Department of PsychologyPortland State University
  • Gino Galvez
    • Department of PsychologyPortland State University
  • Nancy Glass
    • Johns Hopkins University
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10464-010-9377-y

Cite this article as:
Mankowski, E.S., Galvez, G. & Glass, N. Am J Community Psychol (2011) 47: 127. doi:10.1007/s10464-010-9377-y


An analysis of the respective organizational histories, missions, and scholarly activity of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology and the Society for Community Research and Action was conducted in order to inform the development of interdisciplinary linkages between members of the two organizations. The analysis revealed many points of shared values and actions, as well as some important differences. Both scholarly organizations developed out of a similar historical and cultural zeitgeist in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The missions emphasize the role of culture/diversity in psychological phenomena, adopting an interdisciplinary orientation, the value of collaboration, the importance of research method and ethics, and the value of action research. However, community psychology generally lacks an adequate treatment of cultural phenomena while cross-cultural psychology often fails to draw on community and participatory methods useful for understanding culture in context. These common roots and differences are examined. Finally, we describe a community based, participatory research and intervention project to address intimate partner violence among Latinos and European-Americans living in Oregon. Analysis of the research process and on some of our initial findings illustrates challenges and potential benefits of an interdisciplinary, cultural community psychology.


Intimate partner violenceAcculturationCross-cultural psychologyWorkplaceQualitative methods

Cross-cultural and community psychology in the U.S. took root as professional scholarly fields in the mid 1960s and early 1970s from much of the same sociopolitical soil. Both fields’ establishment was based on two, core ideas characteristic of the cultural zeitgeist of the time—that the individual must be understood in sociocultural context, and that this context gives rise to a great diversity in human experience and behavior. In their efforts to test these ideas, both fields have grappled with how to define and assess person-environment relationships and how different levels of analysis can be studied to evaluate these relationships.

Despite these commonalities, however, cross-cultural and community psychology have not fully integrated the valuable conceptual frameworks, knowledge, and skills that each field has to offer the other (Jackson and Kim 2009; O’Donnell 2006; see also, Hughes et al. 1993; Trickett 1996; Watts 1994). Cross-cultural psychology offers community psychology well developed theories and concepts to guide the study of culture and cultural diversity, knowledge about how to form internationally or culturally diverse teams of researchers, and useful concepts for understanding cultural values, processes and practices in research with diverse communities. On the other hand, community psychology offers to cross-cultural psychology a set of values and conceptual frameworks useful for studying the relationship between social problems and individual functioning in diverse communities, strategies for conducting social systems intervention and change, and research methods useful for evaluating these efforts. These similarities and differences produce a tension rich with creative possibility. Community and cross-cultural psychology have yet to realize this potential through a deeper synthesis of the unique strengths that each field has to offer the other. Indeed, progress in the development of an interdisciplinary synthesis of community psychology with other fields and sectors more generally has been slower than expected and beset by several enduring challenges (Maton et al. 2006b), some of which are addressed in this paper.

Given this unfulfilled potential, the purpose of this paper is to spur the development of a more integrated cultural community psychology, one vision of which already has been described by O’Donnell (2006). Cross cultural psychology is not the only partner that can facilitate development of this integration; for example, ethnic minority psychology will contribute as well. There are also related considerations from the study of human diversity (e.g., Trickett et al. 1994), ‘global-community psychology’ (Marsella 1998), and international perspectives (Reich et al. 2007). But the specific convergence of cross-cultural and community psychology more directly and fully will emphasize consideration of how fundamental aspects and dynamics of cultures (which we define more specifically, below) are related to psychological phenomena within local community settings.

In this paper, we present a content and bibliographic analysis of the common roots and unique differences in historical narratives and organizational values of the fields of cross cultural and community psychology and two of their respective scholarly associations. Then, we describe and analyze five decisions we faced in conducting a research and action project on work-related intimate partner violence (IPV) among a diverse sample of abusive men. Our analysis of the project identifies both tensions between cross cultural and community psychology, as well as possibilities for and benefits of a more integrated practice of cultural community. We conclude with some practical suggestions for action that would further the convergence of cross cultural and community psychology.

Common Roots of Cross-Cultural and Community Psychology

As O’Donnell (2006) noted in his Presidential Address to the Society for Community Research & Action (SCRA), the International Association for Cross Cultural Psychology (IACCP) and the SCRA both formed during the fertile period of the mid 1960s and early 1970s.1 These were the ‘catalytic years’ for IACCP (Lonner 2004, p. 126). During this time, the person’s context—cultural, political, social, and environmental—gained renewed attention from the overly individualistic focus of psychologists’ efforts in the previous decades to understand human behavior and improve our condition. In the United States, we saw during this time increasing growth in civil rights, women’s equality, and sexual liberation—all of which challenged the simple worldview in psychology of all people being essentially equal and comparable, regardless of their context, environment and culture. In particular, community psychology grew out of society’s increasing recognition of the failure of mental health policies and practices to, among other things, address the scope of mental health needs in society (Bennett et al. 1966). Community psychology advanced an alternative to the dominant response to deviance at the time—segregation of individuals who were ill or different from prevailing cultural norms into hospitals or housing that isolated them from their natural communities. Lonner (2004) asserted that cross-cultural psychology developed at this time for some of the same reasons—an em idealism after WWII, the civil rights and other social movements, the Cold war, increasing global migration and travel, and communication that brought cultures together in conflict and cooperation. In sum, both fields trace their roots to sociopolitical developments that highlighted the importance of context in defining and understanding individuals and facilitating their psychological well being.

During the past 45–50 years, a more formal history of each field has been authored and marked by the establishment of scholarly organizations and their associated structures, including the IACCP and the SCRA. Influential accounts of these histories within each organization trace the respective births of the scholarly fields to a pivotal, energizing conference (or set of conferences, in the case of IACCP) held during the mid 1960s (O’Donnell 2006). For the IACCP, these were held in Istanbul, Nigeria, Hawaii, and Thailand (Lonner 2004; see also Segall et al. 1998), and for SCRA, it was the Swampscott, Massachusetts conference on the Education of Psychologists for Community Mental Health (Bennett et al. 1966).2

Following these seminal conferences, at roughly the same time, the organizations formed and also established academic journals (the Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology (JCCP) and the American Journal of Community Psychology (AJCP)). They began to host biennial research conferences, which are of similar size, typically attended by 500–600 participants each. Since this founding, both subdisciplines have contributed an almost identical number of research publications to the body of scientific knowledge, as indicated by the number of articles in the Psych Info database that are indexed by the terms ‘cross-cultural psychology’ (1,668) and ‘community psychology’ (1,798) as of August, 2008.

To further evaluate the potential for greater interdisciplinary collaboration between cross-cultural and community psychologists, we conducted a content analysis of the values represented in the mission statements of the respective organizations. Note that the mission statements reflect each field’s respective ideals, which as we point out specifically later in the paper, are not fully realized in members’ actual work. The analysis revealed further similarities, as well as some important differences in the values and goals of each field. In particular, we identified five themes in the values of both organizations’ mission statements and associated documents on their websites: 1. The role of culture/diversity in psychological phenomenon, 2. A positive orientation toward interdisciplinarity, 3. The value of collaboration, 4. The importance of research methodology and ethics, and 5. A value on action research (see the left and middle columns of Table 1). Notably, both mission statements address the importance of culture, although it appears to be more assumed and implicit in the IACCP mission. Both statements express the importance of interdisciplinary work and describe the value of collaboration in different forms. However, SCRA’s mission is concerned more with collaboration among researchers, community members and practitioners whereas IACCP’s is focused on collaboration among cultural researchers themselves. In terms of research methodology, IACCP is focused most on issues related to scientific and measurement validity used to test universal theories of human psychology whereas this theme in SCRA’s mission addresses the importance of the diversity and plurality of research methodologies needed for the creation of ecologically valid, context specific knowledge. Finally, both societies are concerned with using research to address social problems, though this value is more elaborated in and central to the SCRA mission.
Table 1

Comparison of the guiding values of cross-cultural psychology (IACCP), community psychology (SCRA), and an illustrative cultural community psychology project


IACCP mission statement

SCRA mission statement

Integrated interdisciplinary cultural community psychology research and action project on IPV and the workplace

1. Role of culture/diversity in psychological phenomenon

Study of the role of cultural factors in shaping human behavior.

Research and action require explicit attention to and respect for diversity among peoples and settings; human competencies and problems are best understood by viewing people within their social, cultural, economic, geographic, and historical contexts.

Study aimed to understand the role of ethnic and workplace cultures in how work related intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs and could be prevented. Health disparities focus on Latino populations in Oregon. Research design included survivors, abusive men, employers and employees to gain information from multiple standpoints and perspectives to inform the context of IPV. Focus groups explored the experiences of abusive men of color with the criminal justice system. Intervention focused on changing the workplace response to IPV.

2. Interdisciplinary orientation

Draw the attention of other psychologists and scientists in related disciplines to the dynamic interactions between culture and behavior; association encourages relationships and possible formal affiliation with other organizations or associations that have similar aims.

SCRA serves many different disciplines that focus on community research and action; bring together people from various disciplines and contexts.

Multidisciplinary team members represented nursing, community and organizational psychology, geography, labor and management.

3. Collaboration

Provide a vehicle for communication and cooperation among its members and a means of drawing the attention of other psychologists and scientists in related disciplines to the dynamic interactions between culture and behavior.

Community research and action is an active collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and community members.

Intersectoral research and action team included academics, labor organizers, community health practitioners, county human service directors, nonprofit directors; victim advocates. Study advisory board also included government and legal sector representatives. Additional study partners included domestic violence shelters, batterer intervention programs, service sector employers, police departments.

4. Methdology

Development of valid measurement techniques and research methodology in cross-cultural psychology.

Change strategies are needed at multiple levels; use of multiple methodologies.

Use of focus group and individual interviews in multiple languages with Latino and European-American female survivors, abusive men, employers, and employees. Qualitative data used in part to develop content-specific, reliable and valid quantitative survey instruments.

5. Action research

Knowledge for the amelioration of social problems.

Social action…to promote health and empowerment, enhance well-being, prevent harmful outcomes and liberate oppressed peoples.

All data collected informed the development of a web based, experimentally-evaluated, workplace training program designed to change workplace climate regarding IPV, and to improve how employers and employees respond to IPV in the workplace and supported survivors.

Italicized table entries for IACCP and SCRA are quoted or closely paraphrased material from the mission statements of the respective organizations, available at http:\\ and http:\\

Finally, we reviewed several bibliographic analyses of the organizations’ respective journals (Brouwers et al. 2004; Martin et al. 2004), which provided further insight regarding the shared roots and differences of community and cross-cultural psychology. One significant point of comparison is how the fields address culture or diversity in the design of research. In JCCP, from 1970 to 2004, 79% of the publications were cultural comparative studies, which generally view culture (or proxies for it, such as nations) as a kind of independent variable in the study of presumably universally equivalent behavior. By contrast, comparatively fewer (only 25%) articles in AJCP in the more recent period from 1993 to 1998 addressed diversity somehow (and only 13% in an earlier, 1988 review of related journals). Judging from these numbers, community psychology has yet to address culture to the extent that its stated value of diversity and context would command (see also Hughes et al. 1993). Further differences can be noted in the research designs utilized by cross-cultural and community psychology. Half of the studies addressing diversity in AJCP used a within culture group rather than a comparative group research design, similar in approach to the study of culture more commonly taken in cultural or indigenous psychology (Kim et al. 2006).

Another difference in the published scholarship was the treatment of methodology and the characteristics and relationships between the researcher and the researched. Qualitative methods and the characteristics and community affiliations of the research participants and the researchers were central topics of discussion in Martin et al. (2004) review of AJCP, whereas these topics were not analyzed in the JCCP review. Community psychology appears to hold a greater interest in reflexive consideration of the relationship between the researchers and the researched as it informs the nature of research and how it is used to inform social change (see also Watts 1994).

One could view these differences in values, methods, and practices—and the epistemologies underlying them—as significant challenges to a synthesis of cross-cultural and community psychology. However, in accord with many of the theories and values guiding community psychology, we believe that it is more useful to understand these differences as complementary strengths that represent potential resources that each field can contribute toward an interdisciplinary cross-cultural and community psychology. To illustrate the potential of such linkage, in the next section, we briefly describe an interdisciplinary, community-based participatory research and action project that we conducted that addresses the cultural context of work related IPV in diverse communities in Oregon. As part of the project description, we analyze five decisions we made in designing and conducting the research and action project that reflect tensions within the shared values we identified in the missions of community and cross cultural psychology. Finally, we identify and briefly discuss several potential benefits and challenges of an integrated cultural community psychology that emerged from the analysis of our work and of the two fields, specifically, the importance of advance planning to adequately address interdisciplinary team research members’ needs and resources, the value of expanding definitions of culture in cross cultural psychology to include organizational and institutional contexts, the differences in prevailing and standpoint epistemologies within each field, the benefit to community psychology of theories of acculturation and acculturative stress, cultural values, and ecocultural context, and finally, some resources available in each field for guiding collaborative action oriented research to address social problems, such as intimate partner violence.

Toward a Cultural Community Psychology: An Illustrative Research and Action Project on IPV and the Workplace

Project Development and Overview

With our colleagues (Galvez et al. 2006, 2009; Glass et al. 2009) we are engaged in a community-based, interdisciplinary research and action project conceived with attention to some of the principles and recommendations for culturally relevant and appropriate research previously formulated by cross-cultural psychologists and community psychologists (e.g., Harrell and Bond 2006; Harris et al. 2001; Hughes et al. 1993; Sasao and Sue 1993; Segall et al. 1998; Trickett 1996; Watts 1994).

Our conceptualization of culture draws on the conceptualization the long history of this concept, especially in the field of anthropology. One of the earliest definitions described culture as the complex whole that includes knowledge, belief, art, laws, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by humans as members of a society (Tylor 1871). Further work added to this understanding by suggesting that culture included the total social heredity of mankind (Linton 1936) and comprised the [hu]man-made part of the human environment (Herskovitz 1948). In addition, lengthy lists were developed that captured more concise definitions of the concept of culture (Kroeber and Kluckholn 1952). Despite the multitude of conceptions, there is some acceptance that culture is comprised of both concrete, observable activities and artifacts, and of underlying symbols, values and meanings (Berry et al. 2002). It is this general understanding of the conceptualization of culture, as a shared way of life for a group of people, which we will use when we refer to the term culture (Berry et al. 2002).

We applied relevant principles regarding the study of culture and diversity in ethnic communities to inform our understanding of the intersection of IPV, employment, and gender among Latinos and European-Americans living in Oregon. We mapped the five guiding values of cross cultural and community psychology, as reflected in the organizations’ mission statements, onto our research and action project. The mapping is represented with an illustration of each value as expressed in the work of our project in the far right column of Table 1.

Consistent with the IACCP and SCRA’s interdisciplinary orientations, the project is an interdisciplinary partnership of people from diverse cultures, institutions, disciplines, and sectors in society, including nurses, organizational psychologists, community psychologists, domestic violence advocacy programs, and labor unions. Like many projects conducted by community psychologists that reflect a value on research and action and collaboration, it developed from the principal investigator’s engagement with the local community and community organizations. Nancy Glass, a European-American, female, public health nurse provided services to survivors of IPV through local, community based health advocacy organizations in Portland, Oregon. In listening to the stories of many of the Latina survivors, many of whom were recent immigrants to Oregon, predominantly from Mexico but also other Central American and South American countries, she learned that the available resources to assist survivors in the health care and legal systems were often inappropriate and inaccessible to them. The services could require these women to disclose information that would jeopardize their legal status as immigrants to the U.S. Some service providers did not speak Spanish or other native languages that the women spoke. Many of the service providers and the Latina women held distinct views about women’s roles in the family, the meaning of family and of IPV, and the importance of separating or continuing to live with their abusive partner. This was true particularly if the family resided in the U.S. without documented status, which often made the partner much more financially and socially dependent on her abusive partner. Such aspects of immigrant Latino cultural context must be considered in order to understand and effectively intervene in IPV (Klevens 2007; see also Kasturirangan et al. 2004; Perilla 1999).

The principal investigator gradually realized that the women needed more appropriate and accessible services. She began to wonder whether, because many of them were working outside the home in service sector jobs (e.g., migrant farm work, hotel/motel service staff, food service), culturally appropriate services could be made more accessible to women in their workplace. After further investigation, she also learned that men who abuse and stalk their partners often do so at their workplaces, as well as in the home, and that these forms of abuse often interfere with the women’s employment and ability to leave abusive relationships. For example, the leading cause of death to women in U.S. workplaces is homicide by an intimate partner (see also, Riger et al. 2000; U.S. Department of Labor 1997). In addition, in the course of our work, we learned that employers often respond in unhelpful ways when hearing about abuse experienced by their employees, for example, by contacting the police, which could have negative consequences for the family due to their undocumented status in the country (see Yragui et al. 2009).

The investigator brought together a culturally and linguistically diverse, multidisciplinary team of psychologists, nurses, labor organizers, promotores (community-based Spanish health advocates) and other community based workers, including domestic violence shelter staff and advocates to study this problem and develop an IPV preventive intervention program for service sector employers. It is noteworthy that some of the team members were survivors of IPV who brought valuable experiential knowledge to the design and implementation of the project.

In Phase I of the project, we focused on collecting data from multiple sources to inform the development of the intervention, including employers and employees (some of whom are also survivors of IPV or coworkers of survivors), as well as men who had been arrested for abusing their partners, and facilitators of batterer intervention groups that the arrested men were ordered to attend by a court mandated sentence from the criminal justice system. In phase II, at least two additional years are being spent to develop, implement and experimentally test the effectiveness of a workplace IPV preventive intervention focused on changing how employers respond to employees who are survivors or perpetrators of abuse in the workplace.

Analysis of Our Research Process: Tensions and Priorities for Cultural Community Psychology

The research team faced a number of issues and decisions in the research design and process, which led to significant challenges throughout Phase I of the project. Below and in the discussion section, we identify and discuss the implications of five of these decisions from the perspective of the shared values we identified in cross cultural and community psychology, and comment on how these decisions reflect tensions within and emergent priorities for an integrated cultural community psychology (see Table 2 for a summary)—1. Whether to include European-American men in the research design and sample, 2. Whether to analyze the data in Spanish, English or both languages and who would do the analyses, 3. The accuracy of transcription and translation of focus group interviews in multiple languages, 4. The representativeness of research participants recruited from organizations associated with criminal justice versus grassroots, community-based organizations, and 5. How to describe and represent Latino men who reported IPV. Note that there is not a one to one correspondence between the five value dimensions and the five decisions we faced; each decisions was typically informed by more than one of the value dimensions. The issues involved in these decisions stemmed considerably from the multicultural composition of our research team, which included individuals from several cultural and linguistic groups, sectors of society, and academic disciplines (e.g., community psychology, organizational psychology, nursing, geography).
Table 2

Tensions within and priorities for an interdisciplinary cultural community psychology

Illustrative tension

Insights/contributions from cross-cultural psychology

Insights/contributions from community psychology

Emergent priorities for a cultural community psychology

1. Research design—How to design studies of cultural context? Should persons of different cultural groups be sampled and compared or only non-comparative, single population designs?

Frameworks comparing absolutist, universalist, and relativist research designs. Comparisons of cross cultural and cultural psychological approaches to research.

Theories of individual behavior in context. Analysis of the consequences of comparing individuals or groups against standards that were developed in other contexts.

Use multiple and complementary research designs and mixed methods of data collection. Explain benefits, limitations, and risks inherent in each design for creating knowledge about and representation of individuals’ culture.

2. Data analysis—How to analyze culturally meaningful data? Should analysis be conducted only in the original language and/or in a dominant, translated language, and if so, how best to translate?

Theories and methods for cross cultural and multicultural education and training.

Participatory research methods and models of collaboration.

Conduct data analysis in language specific teams. Meet in teams subsequently to determine similarities and differences in their analysis as a function of language and cultural knowledge.

3. Data interpretation—How to judge the validity and cultural significance of transcribed and translated data sources?

Validated protocols for survey and other forms of data translation.

Theories of power and oppression within organizations and systems, which can inform how authority is negotiated within research teams.

Recognize strengths and limitations of different bases of valid knowledge within and between language teams. Meet in culturally specific teams both separately and together to determine the bases of individual members’ interpretations of data.

4. Sampling and interpretation—How to determine whether a sample represents a cultural group?

Definitions and theories of culture, cultural values, acculturation, and acculturative stress.

Tradition of using models of action research toward justice and liberation for individuals.

Develop multicultural and interdisciplinary research teams composed of culturally and linguistically diverse individuals who have relationships with varied subcultural groups and settings within a community. Be aware of the tendency to identify and interpret variance between cultural groups more than within groups.

5. Interpretation and representation—How to describe hurtful behaviors that may be associated with culture or inaccurately associated with cultural stereotypes or consequences of oppression?

Comparison of absolutist, universalist, and relativist research designs. Theories of population-specific, cross cultural, and cultural psychological approaches to research.

Facilitate empowerment, for example, by using the labels and definitions authored by less powerful community members.

Critically analyze how social problem definitions and labels for groups and individuals with diverse characteristics are easily but erroneously and harmfully, conflated with culture and include this analysis in research reports. Attend to context in defining culturally based groups of individuals. Recognize how aspects of the context in a given setting may affect sample characteristics, which otherwise may be mistaken for aspects of ‘culture’.

Reflecting tensions between IACCP and SCRA’s first (the role of culture and diversity in psychological phenomenon) and fourth (methodology) core values, one initial issue that the research team faced was whether to collect data in European-American populations in addition to Latino populations. That is, should the research sample include only Latinos, a combined group with European Americans, or a comparative group analysis? An answer to such a question usually depends on the epistemology underlying a research project. While a detailed analysis of the epistemology underlying the values of cross cultural and community psychology is beyond the scope of this paper, the published research and mission statements of the two subdisciplines indicate differing emphases. IACCP’s mission statement addresses the role of culture and diversity in psychological phenomenon by referring to study of “cultural factors” that “shape human behavior”, whereas SCRA’s mission speaks of “viewing people within their… contexts”.

The funding for the project came from the National Institutes of Health as part of its focus on ‘health disparities’ (Braveman 2006). While the concept of health disparities has drawn significant attention (and research funding) to structural inequalities in health, particularly those associated with race, class and gender, defining inequity in terms of health disparities also has some problematic consequences. Health disparities as characterized between groups imply that a dominant group (e.g., European-Americans) sets a standard or reference point for oppressed groups (e.g., men of color). Designing comparative group research on health disparities can produce unintended consequences, for example, support for the idea that European-American populations are ideal or normative while others are deviant and must be corrected or adjusted to the their norm, regardless of other aspects of the individual’s context. Specifically, in our research group, the health disparities framework led to discussion of whether it was necessary or desirable to sample European-Americans in a study whose objective was to contribute to women’s health and safety, particularly among immigrant Latinas, by reducing the impact and prevalence of IPV. Was it necessary or desirable to allocate limited resources to study also European-American women’s victimization and European-American men’s perpetration of workplace IPV? Further, would collecting these data necessitate analysis in which Latino and European-American outcomes and quality of life would be compared, distracting from a focus on Latinos? Or, would a comparative group analysis better make the case for improving Latinas health and reducing health disparities? Because of the health disparities framing and funding of the project, data were collected from both European-American and Latino samples, but our analyses have included both within group study of the Latino cultural context of IPV (Galvez et al. 2009) and between group statistical comparisons of reports of IPV (e.g., Mankowski et al. 2009).

The question is not whether culture comparative or non-comparative research designs are better (see also Cohen 2007); rather, a more useful question is which design is best suited to the particular research goals and the social, political, and historical context of the research—as evaluated by all those working on or affected by the project. There are conceptual limitations and risks to both approaches. For example, a culturally specific analysis risks an implicit suggestion that Latino culture is somehow unique in producing IPV or reproducing stereotypes about the prevalence of violence among men of color, whereas a comparative group design can imply that there is an absolute or context independent standard against which all individuals should be judged. A cultural community psychology would ideally attempt to understand the individual in context using both population specific and group comparative designs in complementary fashion. Such complementarity might best be realized across different studies conducted by the same researcher(s), but where the specific purposes, as well as the benefits, risks, and limitations of each design and its attendant analytic approach are described clearly and in relation to those offered by the other. In addition, mixed method research designs that draw on both qualitative and quantitative forms of data and their associated epistemologies and analytic logics can transcend the limitations of either research design. Established frameworks for integrating quantitative and qualitative designs are instructive here (e.g., Morgan 1998). Also, thinking from cross cultural psychology about the differences between absolutist, universalist, and relativist approaches to phenomena (Berry et al. 2002) could be instructive for community psychologists, while community psychologists bring theories and methods especially useful for identifying and assessing relevant dimensions of an individual’s context that give meaning to behavior that otherwise can be judged unjustly against implicit, arbitrary, or fixed standards.

The second decision our research team faced was whether to analyze the interview transcripts in Spanish, English or both languages, and who would do this analysis. This decision reflected tensions in the second (interdisciplinary orientation), third (collaboration) and fourth (methodology) value dimensions of cross cultural and community psychology. This decision posed challenges to our value of participatory approaches to research methods, which the core values of community psychology particularly emphasize, as reflected in the mission statement about interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers, practitioners and community members (see also Jason et al. 2003). While the IACCP statement also addresses interdisciplinary collaboration, the emphasis is on collaboration among members (researchers) as a way of enabling comparative group studies using data from samples collected in different countries.

Our research team and participants were all living in the United States, yet many of our team members and participants were enculturated outside the United States, and many members of our team were not bicultural or bilingual, including the principle investigator. Despite a few bilingual and bicultural members, our project team is better described as multicultural rather than intercultural, reflecting similar differences between interdisciplinary (synthesis of disciplines within individuals) and multidisciplinary (synthesis across a group of individuals) research. Consequently, the monolingual members either needed to learn Spanish, which would likely take longer than the timeline of the project allowed, or the transcripts would need to be translated to English. If the transcripts were translated, English speakers who were not bicultural, and thus outsiders to the Latino participants’ cultures, would have more authority over how their voices were interpreted (see Irvine et al. 2008). Did their training and expertise qualify them to analyze and interpret the voices of participants who spoke a different language and more importantly had different cultural heritage? After many discussions about these issues, the team agreed that the texts should be translated and analyzed by both Spanish and English speakers. However, additional qualified personnel needed to be brought on to the research team to do this substantial amount of work. The one person who had been originally responsible for translation was overwhelmed by the amount of data and subsequently quit. It was difficult to find an adequate number of Spanish translators in Portland, which is predominantly European-American, and there was not adequate budgeting in the grant for the considerable amount of translation. As a result, some members of our team who had access to university resources drew on unpaid undergraduate research assistants to check the accuracy of Spanish transcripts and assist in translating these transcripts to English. The issues we faced in these aspects of the project are similar to those faced by the increasing number of psychologists likely to be working as part of multinational or multicultural research groups. The insights of cross cultural psychology regarding cross cultural communication and multicultural education and training (Brislin and Horvath 1997) could be considered by community psychology in the development of more sustained and effective multicultural research teams. In the same way that intercultural training practices have enabled individuals to work more effectively in countries with different languages, values, norms, and customs than those in their country of origin, they could be applied to improve how multicultural research groups function (e.g., how decisions are made, conflicts resolved) (e.g., Matveev and Nelson 2004).

The third decision we faced in the project concerned who should translate the interview transcripts to English from Spanish, which stemmed from questions about the initial accuracy of the transcription and translation. Like the decision above regarding whether to translate and analyze the transcripts in English, this decision also reflected tensions in the second (interdisciplinary orientation), third (collaboration) but especially the fourth (methodology) value dimensions of cross cultural and community psychology. Many of the transcriptions were done by a bilingual, bicultural graduate student who had experience doing bilingual focus group moderation and research transcription. However, other bilingual, bicultural researchers on the team believed that the transcriptions and translations were not entirely accurate. These researchers were co-investigators and more senior, and therefore held more power and authority, and also represented community partnered organizations whose participation in the study was crucial to its success, for example, due to their access to and influence with participant populations. However, because neither the graduate student’s supervisor nor the principal investigator is fluent in Spanish they could not evaluate the transcription accuracy. The project budget did not include additional resources to hire outside additional transcribers and translators. Ultimately, the principal investigator sought outside consultation regarding the accuracy of the translation and the student’s versions were used largely in the research study. The disagreement created tension among the bilingual research team members and between the bilingual and monolingual research team members. We could have benefited from an experienced cross cultural psychologist on the team. Cross cultural psychologists have significant experience working across languages and cultures, which could inform the methods community psychologists use to analyze multilingual datasets on diverse teams and what standards should exist for translations and transcriptions that would produce valid measurement and data (Berry et al. 2002; Irvine et al. 2008).

The fourth decision we faced was whether a sample of men from batterer intervention programs was sufficient to consider these Latino men who abuse their partners as representing a cultural group, and whether batterer intervention programs were adequate alone as partners in an action research project to reduce IPV in the Latino community. In addressing these questions, we faced questions related to the first (the role of culture and diversity in psychological phenomenon) and fifth (action research) value dimensions of cross cultural and community psychology. In determining our sample and how to represent it, we needed to consider the institutional context that generated it. To address the institutional context of behavior such as intimate partner violence, community psychologists bring rich theories about systems of power and oppression and their relationship to self-determination and wellness (Prilleltensky 2003), and elaborated models and exemplars of action research that synthesize knowledge and action toward social problem solving and human liberation (e.g., Watts and Serrano-Garcia 2003).

Using these perspectives, we recalled that the vast majority of men in the batterer intervention programs attended as a result of a court mandated sentence from the criminal justice system. Some of the bilingual, bicultural co-investigators believed that there were a number of Latino men who could be recruited to participate in the study through grassroots, community based programs and organizations that were not affiliated with the criminal justice system (e.g., Latino parenting programs), and that these organizations would make excellent partners in an action research project designed to reduce IPV because they could reach a larger, more representative group of men within their own communities than those select men involved in the criminal justice system. Certainly, there are forms of IPV that are not illegal (e.g., emotional abuse) and consequently a large number of men who were engaged in IPV could not be recruited through the criminal justice system. In addition, Latino men like other men of color experience discrimination in the criminal justice system, which raised ethical considerations in deciding to collaborate with the criminal justice system. Most importantly, we realized that the Latino men whose families contacted the criminal justice system because of an incident of IPV probably were different than those whose families would not or did not choose to do so, for example, due to concerns about deportation or keeping the family intact (Kasturirangan et al. 2004; Raj and Silverman 2002). These considerations informed how the research team attempted to recruit participants into our study.

Ultimately, while the team agreed that recruiting Latino men from diverse settings in the community would result in a more culturally valid and representative sample, we were unable to locate any programs or groups addressing partner violence among abusive men that operated in local communities separate from the criminal justice system. This fact likely reflects current assumptions in the United States about the causes of intimate partner violence and how to best address it. For example, while approximately 90% of men in batterer intervention programs in Oregon and the U.S. attend due to a court mandate (Price and Rosenbaum 2009), only about 10% of the participants are mandated in programs outside the U.S., which rely more on informal social controls to get men into programs (Rothman et al. 2003; see also Rothman et al. 2007). Awareness of this context helped us to interpret better the meaning of intimate partner violence reported by our study participants, by enabling us to distinguish between Latino men as a cultural group and institutional forces within the country.

Finally, and probably most significantly, the research team had a decision to make about how to describe and represent Latino men and their abusive behavior in the study. This issue speaks to the first value dimension—the way in which an integrated cultural community psychology should define culture and diversity in psychological phenomenon. Men of color are over-represented in media images of violence and in the criminal justice system (Steffensmeier and Demuth 2000; Entman 2006; U.S. Department of Justice 2006). By including cultural explanations of Latino men’s violence, our accounts have the potential to reinforce these hurtful and racist practices. There are two related issues to consider here. First, how should researchers define study samples—in terms of individuals’ cultural context, their identity or group membership, or their individual behavior? As Watts (in press) points out, whether a group is seen as agent or target of oppression depends on the context one attends to in defining the group. We considered various descriptors—all with surplus meaning that we wanted to avoid. ‘Perpetrators’ and ‘batterers’, two terms widely used in scholarly discourse on IPV, seemed to play into the stereotype of men of color being particularly violent and reduced the complexity of the men to a single label. We believed that more generic and behaviorally-focused terms such as ‘abusers’ or ‘men who abuse their partners’ also were problematic because they either de-gendered IPV or sounded awkward. Ultimately, we settled on ‘abusive men’, which focused on the men as agents and seemed at least to avoid the worst disadvantages of the other terms, but did not invoke an awareness of their possible experience of being targets of abuse. Second, we discussed whether analyses should be conducted only on Latino men’s abusive behavior, comparing Latino and European-American men’s abusive behavior, or ignoring ethnic group membership altogether. The question here is whether cultural community psychology research projects should focus on understanding a single cultural group (defined, however incompletely or inaccurately by ethnic group) or include and seek to understand multiple groups through comparison. This issue has been debated between cultural and cross-cultural psychology through the years (Price-Williams 1980; Segall et al. 1998). A cultural community psychology could reconcile this debate by proposing that the context most matters when attempting to characterize a group in terms of culture. Cross cultural comparisons when the community context is not described have a greater potential for resulting in oversimplified, stereotypic, or hurtful accounts. On the other hand, analyses of culturally meaningful groups who can be descriptively connected to their context are more likely to yield meaningful, useful, respectful, and valid accounts. A synthesis of cross cultural and community psychology values, goals and methods is most likely to produce such contextually grounded accounts, as community psychologists typically bring context, structural analysis and diversity awareness to their work, and cross cultural psychologists typically bring elaborated theories of culture and inter-cultural dynamics to their work.

Neither single group nor group comparative analyses alone seemed entirely satisfying; both had important limitations, mapping onto the limitations of the fields of cultural, cross-cultural and a-cultural psychology more generally. We considered which analysis would be less likely to reinforce stereotypic notions of Latino men as violent—analyses of Latino men only or analyses comparing the prevalence of workplace behavior among Latino and European-American men? Would analysis only of Latino men suggest somehow that the problem of IPV was uniquely theirs? How could we validly interpret meanings and consequences of the cultural context of Latino men’s IPV when some cultural values were present in similar ways (though also different) in the European-American men’s accounts (e.g., masculinity/machismo)? Ultimately, we decided that complementary analyses of both the qualitative data regarding Latino men’s perceptions of the relationship between cultural values and IPV (see Galvez et al. 2009) and comparative quantitative analysis of the survey responses (Mankowski et al. 2009) would be most valid and useful when presented with discussion of the limitations and strengths of each. The comparative analysis of the survey data on the prevalence and consequences of IPV highlights differences in average behavioral tendencies, but the meaning and process underlying this relatively static and decontextualized survey data can be interpreted with greater validity using the in depth qualitative single group interviews. Various forms of data and analysis have different potentials and limitations, but a cultural community psychology suggests reflexive and balanced use of diverse designs, methods and analyses within a single project to mitigate the potential dominance, ethnocentricity and cultural bias of any single approach.

Research Design and Method

Many of these research decisions were faced during the initial design period of the study, but also again during and after focus group interviews were conducted with Latino men living in the U.S. who had abused their partners, and with facilitators of the batterer intervention groups attended by the men. Focus groups were used to collect data because they generate domain-specific content that is useful particularly in understanding culturally specific knowledge and meanings that participants assign to their experiences (Hughes and DuMont 1993), such as workplace IPV among Latinos. The interviews were guided by three research questions that we either developed from an ecological model of IPV (Edleson and Tolman 1992) or formulated based on responses to our first set of interviews: 1. What abuse tactics, strategies and workplace resources do men use to perpetrate IPV in the workplace?, 2. What workplace policies and norms address IPV in the men’s jobs?, and 3. How does cultural context inform men’s experience, understanding and perpetration of IPV?

A total of four focus groups were conducted with twenty-two Latino men, aged 19–45, recruited from batterer intervention programs (BIPs). Ninety percent of the men identified as Mexican (1 identified as Cuban and 1 identified as Puerto Rican); all spoke Spanish fluently. Two additional focus groups consisted of eight male and one female BIP facilitators, and four male and two female community mental health professionals with experience in IPV among Latinos. Thirteen participants were Latino/a and two were European-American. They ranged in age from 27 to 56, and had between 1 and 10 years of work experience that informed their participation in the focus groups. All spoke Spanish fluently.

The focus groups were facilitated in Spanish by the second author, a bilingual/bicultural male graduate student, assisted by the first author. One group was co-facilitated by a bilingual/bicultural female Latina community leader. Audio recordings were transcribed in Spanish and then translated to English by a team of bilingual/bicultural research assistants. The team of bilingual/bicultural researchers jointly conducted descriptive content analysis of the groups. Subsequently, the analysis of the focus group interviews was used to inform the development of a bilingual survey measure of the prevalence of various types of work-related IPV and its consequences. Epistemology guiding the project informed whether to try and develop a measurement instrument for work-related IPV that is valid across cultures or to use multiple methods that each can provide different perspectives on work-related IPV sensitive to differences in settings, contexts, and populations. Thus, a basic challenge to the integration of cross-cultural and community psychology is how to integrate somewhat different epistemological tendencies that guide the two fields and dictate different approaches to assessment.

Illustrative Findings

The focus group narratives situated Latino men’s abusive behavior in the context of their experiences with the criminal justice system, their immigration to the U.S., acculturative stress, and aspects of Latin American culture, especially the importance of family ties and gender role expectations and norms (see Galvez et al. 2009). Because a complete presentation and analysis of these narratives is beyond the scope of this paper, we briefly illustrate one theme of the narratives—the “cultural clashes” experienced in making sense of the U.S. criminal justice response to IPV, which included description of men’s understanding of oppression in relation to these experiences. A key issue when interpreting such cultural clashes is determining whether and how the clashes reflect actual cultural differences versus different treatment of cultures by the criminal justice system that subsequently produces apparent cultural differences (see also Hunt et al. 2004).

Many of the abusive men believed that the police or criminal justice system treated them in an unfair manner. Importantly, these participants perceived that the discriminatory treatment was related directly to their ethnicity or nationality and their difference from European-American residents, and that this exacerbated problems with their partners:

“And when they told them [the police] that I was Mexican, they set a trap [for me] just because I had an argument with my partner”.

“It is like they [police] are already against us, against Mexicans”. [Group #4]

One participant denied ever being physically abusive to his partner and stated that his arrest was the first domestic issue that involved the police. He strongly believed that he was a target of racism by the police:

I don’t know what you all believe, but me, my point of view, is that it’s like they [police] have something against us, us Mexicans. Simply because of one discussion, the police arrive and they get you into real big problems…Perhaps it’s because of my skin color. I think it’s because of my color because she is American [white]. And when they [neighbors] said that I was a Mexican, they [police] set a trap for me just for the single act of arguing with my partner. [Group #4]

Some men also believed that their arrest for IPV and sentence to the BIP represented a broader effort to change their culturally specific beliefs and practices, a kind of forced acculturation:

“Do they want to change our culture? They are not going to change us. We are already from that culture. So we can try to adapt to… the American culture. But they can not change us completely… our roots are like this, we come from other countries. We can change a little bit but not completely…” [Group #4]

It is also important to note that European-American men in the study raised some similar concerns about the fairness of their treatment by the criminal justice system. However, they did not relate these concerns to their ethnicity or other demographic characteristics except their gender.

So too, the Latino men expressed some concerns about their treatment by the criminal justice system that they did not relate directly to their ethnic culture but rather to their gender. Specifically, some participants felt that they were treated unfairly by the courts because they the sanctions only involved them and not their female partners. In one group, the abusive men talked about how they perceived that men come out of this situation losing more than their partners because of the loss of work, limited or no access to their home, and the court mandate to attend costly batterer intervention programs:

“I think that things should be mutual. Not only me, because a family problem is a problem of the two [it is] not only one…”

“They send us here to the classes [BIP], but for them, no. Then we can change, but when are they going to change? They’re never going to change…”

“She gets everything and you are the one who has to leave”

“I lost [the job] definitively…It’s too much ten days [in jail]… it’s impossible and then without communicating to them [employers]” [Group #3]

In addition to perceiving that they lost more than their partners, some men felt, self-servingly, that even when their partner or family members wanted them to stay together as a couple, these desires were secondary to the criminal justice response separating them or their family:

Like when I went to jail, she also went to the hearing and told the judge that she needed me to return home…She’s saying [to the judge] that I can return home. That she needs me, that we had a problem, but that we can move forward. But the judge told her that no, that it isn’t her problem anymore, that it’s the state’s problem now. And so it’s no longer me against her, but it’s the state…that comes to separate me from a person that is saying that they want to continue being with me. That we can move forward from the problem that we had. But it is the state that is separating [me] from the person and that is where I think come the problems, more problems. [Group #4]

Across these statements, while the men did not directly connect their perception of mistreatment to their ethnicity or home countries, it is important to remember that these perceptions were formed in the context of other beliefs about how the criminal justice response represented ethnic discrimination and a challenge to their culture. As theories of intersectionality (McCall 2005) propose, it may be difficult let alone desirable for the men in their accounts to separate their interconnected gendered and ethnic cultural experiences.

The BIP group facilitators had a related but distinct vantage point on these experiences. They discussed how their clients felt angry at the criminal justice system and the larger government but understood these experiences and perceptions to exist within an ongoing “cultural clash” (see Galvez et al. 2009). Because of this, many facilitators thought that it was important to educate their clients about the difference in laws, customs, and beliefs related to gender and to partner violence in the U.S. culture and in the Mexican culture:

“And that’s why it is so important to make them understand that there are two different cultures…You aren’t in Mexico…It’s true that here in Mexico, you can do one thing but, in the U.S., no…Because many of us, the Hispanics, we are accustomed to the famous “mordida” [bribing authority] for everything…The police makes a lot of restrictions in this…She can go out even to dance, go out with friends, with their partners, even with their ex-partners, and you have to understand this. And, for us Mexicans it’s difficult…Why? Because in our culture, it is not permitted.” [Group #2]

In this account, a facilitator described the importance of addressing acculturation with his clients. By referring to norms and gender role beliefs from a Mexican perspective, he not only meets his clients in a culturally significant way, but he informs them that changes have to be made because they now live in a country where acting on those norms and beliefs will create problems for them.

The facilitator’s comments can be understood by drawing on the concept of acculturation and theories about how the process of acculturation occurs, which anthropologists and later cross cultural psychologists developed. His comments reflect an assimilation perspective on acculturation, that is, the value and importance of shedding ethnic identity developed in one’s country of origin and adopting the cultural norms of the host society. However, acculturation by assimilation may be difficult for some Latinos to accept because it seems to require them to abandon their native culture. In a conversation about batterers experience with the criminal justice system, another facilitator described some resistance among men to assimilation in the context of being arrested for their abusive behavior:

“The first thing that we start to talk about is what is appropriate and what is not appropriate of the culture difference. I had a client that told me that ‘[U.S.] is not my culture.’ OK, I’m not saying that it is your culture. What I am saying is that you are living here and you have to change… the consequences are going to be different. The abuse on women is not accepted. You cannot rule [your home] with violence. Because many of them see women as property, which is what is instilled in the man… for many of them, to change this [belief] is very difficult”. [Group #2]

This account is similar to the previous one; however, the facilitator is also challenging the assimilation acculturation strategy by telling clients that while their behavior and by necessity their beliefs about women must change to avoid the consequences, they do not have to identify with the American culture. This facilitator’s approach is slightly different in suggesting that the man can remain who he is culturally (separation acculturation strategy) but will need to change his abusive and controlling beliefs and behaviors, which are illegal and unacceptable in the U.S. Theories of acculturation and adaptation developed by cross cultural psychologists (Berry 2003; see also Hunt et al. 2004) provide a systematic description of these complex intercultural dynamics and may help community psychologists to work with immigrant populations in ways that are consistent with the field’s values and goals (e.g., increasing empowerment and person-environment fit).

Some facilitators believed that the challenges men were facing to change their abusive behavior toward their partners also needed to be approached in the context of oppression and racism the men experienced in the U.S.:

Another thing that we use a lot in the program is to talk about oppression. Oppression is very important because they live it; they live it each day… We are not only talking about Hispanics, but Asians, African Americans… [We] talk about oppression and how that makes you feel. When they criticize you, when they correct you, when they pay you less, when you go to a restaurant and they follow you, or a store, they follow you because they think that you are going to steal or [how] they treat you in a bank, they ask you for 3 pieces of identification… So, from there, a lot of things come out of them [batterers], how it makes them feel. Well, it is like this [oppression] that you make your family feel. It is very important to talk about oppression because they live it, they feel it. [Group #2]

This facilitator acknowledges and provides space in the group for his clients to describe their experiences of oppression and racism, which in turn enables him to draw connections for the men between the oppression they experience and the abusive behavior they use against their partners.


Our research and intervention project and the preceding historical and bibliographic analysis of the values and concepts represented in cross-cultural and community psychology both indicate the potential benefits and challenges of developing an integrated cultural community psychology. Here we discuss several of these points and make recommendations based on our work for the priorities of an integrated cultural community psychology (O’Donnell 2006; Jackson and Kim 2009; Marsella 1998).

First, our project demonstrates how successful interdisciplinary collaboration requires intentional planning and knowledge about the specific individual needs and resources of all partners and their organizations (Stokols 2006). Interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaboration can take many forms (Stokols), but in this project we developed a multicultural, bilingual team of people working in academic, healthcare, legal and advocacy sectors in the fields of community psychology, community health, public health nursing, domestic violence, labor relations and geography. The project was intersectoral and interdisciplinary but not multidisciplinary in that it did not include both individual cross cultural and community psychologists. Interdisciplinary projects require individual researchers to integrate within themselves disparate disciplines or subdisciplines of knowledge. Here, individual project members attempted to integrate community psychological and cross-cultural perspectives, theories and methods. We have presented this project at the IACCP conference as part of a symposium involving both community and cross-cultural psychologists and at the SCRA’s Biennial conference. However, the project was not a multidisciplinary cross cultural and community psychology in that the conceptualization and conduct of the project did not include both individual cross-cultural and community psychologists. As such, our integration of the two fields into a cultural community psychology has been most complete within individual researchers and not realized across individuals within a research team.

Second, our project is an example of how cross cultural psychology could broaden its definition of culture, to include examination of the relationship between individual psychological processes and local community, organizational and institutional contexts as aspects of culture. Our preliminary analysis highlights how Latino men living in the U.S. gave accounts of work-related IPV informed by ethnic cultural and gender cultural contexts, as well as the interaction between these contexts and the criminal justice system. Interestingly, the facilitators used examples related to acculturative stress or U.S.-Mexico differences as opportunities to discuss IPV and educate their clients. More specifically, the facilitators spoke about culture clashes that their clients experience as a point of entry to discuss their client’s IPV and/or to challenge assumptions and beliefs that underlie their abusive behavior. On the other hand, the abusive men themselves discussed acculturative stress and unfair treatment of the criminal justice system as explanations for their violence. They described how their partners’ acculturation (e.g., partner’s becoming independent, changing norms around familial obligations) contributed to their perpetration of IPV.

Third, differences between the fields stem in part from the predominant epistemologies represented in their respective values and most common research designs. Our project demonstrates the importance of giving attending to how facts are interpreted from different standpoints and which forms of knowledge are validated among researchers, practitioners, and community members from diverse cultures. With serious attention to culture in community psychology come particular challenges in interpreting research findings and deciding whether and how to act or intervene based on those findings. For example, we are working to understand how the cultural position of Latino men living in the U.S., with particular values about family and gender and experiences of racism and discrimination in employment and legal systems, shapes the meaning they give to their abusive behavior. In fact, men subverting or denying responsibility for abusive behavior appears to be common across many cultures, though our study suggests that the form of justifications or explanations may differ. We do not view cultural context, cultural differences, or acculturation stress as excuses for partner violence but rather as explanatory concepts that need to be considered in designing appropriate and effective intervention curricula to prevent IPV. However, community psychologists do not have well-developed theories about how to navigate between excuse making and respect for cultural diversity in potentially hurtful behaviors nor action strategies to “subvert” individuals’ oppressive behavior that masquerades as culture (see also Ortiz-Torres et al. 2000). Cross-cultural psychologists could help community psychologists address this important problem concerning the tension between value-based intervention and hands-off cultural relativism (Cowan et al. 2001). Cross cultural psychology has distinguished between absolutist, universalist and relativist orientations to research and thought through some implications of these differences for action and intervention based on these orientations (e.g., (Berry et al. 2002). Community psychology’s attention to the assumptions and dynamics of power in collaboration and intervention models of empowerment and liberation usefully complement the conceptual thinking in cross cultural psychology about these research orientations (see also Trickett 2007).

Fourth, more generally, this analysis indicates that community psychology can learn further from cross cultural psychology theories and concepts that describe and explain how cultural context affects individuals and especially the dynamics of intercultural exchanges (Jackson and Kim 2009). These cultural interactions are occurring on a global level with increasing frequency and impact due to communication and transportation technology (Marsella 1998). Of particular value will be theories of cultural transmission such as acculturation (Berry 2003), which address the dynamics of identity, attitudes and behavior when an individual experiences a changing cultural context, such as during immigration. Theories of acculturation and acculturative stress helped our team understand better how Latinos who had immigrated to Oregon might have interpreted and responded to any different attitudes about IPV, women, and families, and the institutional response of the criminal justice system that they encountered. Theories addressing fundamental cultural values also could be incorporated into a cultural community psychology (e.g., Marín 1993). One of particular relevance is the value of the individual relative to the group or community in a society, addressed by theories of individualism and collectivism, and its relationship to a broader ecocultural context (Georgas et al. 2004). The value placed in community psychology on addressing social problems in diverse groups necessitates use of such theories to move beyond description of diversity toward understanding of cultural context that enables contextually valid, culturally sustainable approaches to collaborative work in increasingly fluid, dynamic communities.

Fifth, action efforts to address social problems (e.g., IPV) in communities with diverse individuals and contexts will need to draw on the kind of situated and culturally specific knowledge generated by this study (see also Pan et al. 2006; Trickett 1996). While the men’s complaints about their mistreatment by the criminal justice system should not be taken at face value when considering response to men’s abusive behavior, efforts informed by the motives and underlying experiences of these men may be more successful than those which discount or ignore their subjectivity. We were able to gather such accounts through a partnership of people in the local community who work on the problem of IPV and academic researchers from a variety of disciplines. By developing collaborative relationships in which the design and conduct of the research is negotiated and shared between academic researchers and community members, more contextually and culturally valid knowledge can be created and acted upon. Cross-cultural psychologists have unique experience in the development of international and culturally diverse research teams whereas community psychologists have demonstrated expertise in community-based participatory research. Combined together in a cultural community psychology, these sources of knowledge would increase the validity and integrity of the research each field is able to conduct.

The findings from this research and additional information the team has collected from female employees (Yragui et al. 2009), female survivors (Glass et al. 2009), and employers will inform our development of a culturally appropriate workplace intervention. Primary and secondary preventive interventions are needed because many employers seem not to address effectively IPV that affects workers’ and work environment safety and health. Experimental evaluation of the intervention will continue the cycle of research informing action, in turn informing research—a hallmark of community psychology. Knowledge about the synergistic practice of research and action can be useful to the field of cross-cultural psychology, which has a wealth of theory and empirical data regarding cultural aspects of psychological phenomenon, but not the same experience using data to inform intervention development and assessment in diverse communities.

Conclusion and Future Directions for Further Interdisciplinary Linkage

During the past several years, the SCRA has pursued the development of interdisciplinary research, training and practice, for example, by sponsoring a working conference on interdisciplinary issues, publishing a special issue of the American Journal of Community Psychology on community-based interdisciplinary research (Maton et al. 2006a) and establishing a standing committee on Interdisciplinary Linkages. Similarly, SCRA has been a cosponsor of the IACCP meeting, and members have made scholarly contributions to the conference. This paper emerges from these efforts within SCRA and IACCP and argues for the development of a cultural community psychology.

We conclude by briefly suggesting several concrete actions that could foster further interdisciplinary synthesis of cross cultural and community psychology. 1. Establish liaisons from the IACCP and SCRA to serve as reference persons and to coordinate communication and information sharing between our associations. 2. Develop and maintain a listing on IACCP and SCRA web pages of members in our respective associations who are interested in potential research collaborations on specific topics or problems. 3. Publish special issues of the Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology and/or the American Journal of Community Psychology that highlight the key theories, research methods and value perspectives we have to offer each other, as illustrated in exemplary research and action projects. 4. Develop a graduate student exchange program to provide opportunities for students from different programs in cross-cultural and community psychology to obtain further training in the respective field, in a country or region different from their own. 5. Co-sponsor each other’s Biennial conference meetings (which meet on alternative years—i.e., IACCP meets during even numbered years and SCRA meets during odd numbered years), by submitting a slate of panels, presentations, workshops and other proposals that highlight the best knowledge and research that our respective fields have to offer each other.

Our two psychologies have much to learn from the similarities (and differences) in how we theorize and assess culture and diversity in psychological phenomenon, in how we conduct research, and in how we express our values in work with diverse communities and groups. Research and action on complex social problems experienced by individuals requires interdisciplinary and multi-sector collaborations (Maton et al. 2006b), which are also a kind of cross-cultural work. Such collaborations, like many cross-cultural endeavors, require translation of languages and meanings, willingness to bridge perspectives (e.g., of academic and community sectors), and most critically, strong doses of patience and humility.


Of course, both disciplines trace their histories much further back than these formal, modern beginnings, especially cross-cultural psychology. Cross-cultural psychology existed for hundreds, if not thousands of years, in philosophical and anthropological ideas about human nature and human diversity (Jahoda and Krewer 1997). Similarly, community psychology links itself to ideas about and reforms in society’s treatment of individuals who do not fit into ‘normal’ definitions of human behavior and mental health.


Importantly, from the beginning, cross-cultural psychology conferences have been international in name and location. The first international conference on community psychology was held only recently (June, 2006), in San Juan, Puerto Rico.



The research was supported partially by a grant from the United States National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Nursing Research R01 NR08771-01A1 (9/04-5/09). We thank Mike McGlade, Maria Elena Ruiz, Marie Dahlstrom, Rebecca Hernandez, Lorraine Escribano, Brooks Fuentes, Gabriela Leon, Carina Zaragoza, Susannah María Gurule Foundation, and participating men and facilitators from Oregon batterer intervention programs for their contributions to this research.

Copyright information

© Society for Community Research and Action 2010